A Painful Lesson When Social Media Fun Goes Awry

I could tell he was heartbroken. “I got taken off the account,” my son, Nick, said to me. “A client read one of my tweets, and that was it. They called my boss.”

“What did you say in the tweets?” I asked.

“I did a couple of things. I joked with my friends that I was the assistant director of marketing. They all thought it was funny. I also tweeted a joke about someone being fired,” he said.

Consequences of Tweeting

“So how did this all get back to your client?” I asked.

“One person called another, and he complained,” he said. “I feel so stupid. The tweets were unnecessary. I have 160 Twitter followers. I had no idea this tweeting would impact the reputation of my client. I love the client.

“Everything good I did over the last six months—building a great team, the messaging, the communication on what we were accomplishing for them, the trust and passion for what we were doing—it was all gone because of a couple of stupid tweets. Six months of dedication gone. It all crumbled because of what I said on social media.”

I felt his pain, “I am so sorry this happened to you. I know how important this client was to you. But if you are going to learn a hard lesson, it is best it comes early in your career.”

Trickle-Down Twitter Effect

“So what did you learn?” I asked.

“I learned how dangerous social media is. I’m thinking I’m talking to friends, and, in reality, I’m talking to the world. I have to be careful. In fact, I think I’ll get off social media completely,” he said.

We talked for a short time after that. I tried to comfort him, but losing a client for doing what you now think is stupid is hard to feel good about. If you haven’t been there, at least you’ve been close. I know I have.

Social media is a powerful tool which, when used without knowing your audience, is a dangerous weapon. We use it, whether we realize it or not, to establish our personal brand in the world. When we transition from college to career, our social media messaging must transition, as well.

You Are Two Brands

I told Nick, “There are two brands in your life. There is your personal brand, and there is your company’s brand. When you go to work for someone, your brand must reinforce their brand. If your brand supersedes your employer’s brand or they are in conflict, then it will impact you negatively. Protecting your employer’s brand is your priority.

“It is time to start building a personal brand which makes you attractive to the companies you want to work for. The companies which will launch your career and provide the lifelong advancement and network to accomplish your goals.

“Social media is the tool of choice, but it must be used strategically. You learned it is time to make the transition from college student to professional. You are switching your audience from friends to clients,” I advised.

The founder of Nick’s company is a friend who seeks my advice from time to time. He told me the next day how badly he felt about having to take Nick off the account. He said, “I love Nick, and he did a great job, but my hands are tied. The client must come first.” I agreed.

He added, “My wife told me if I am not more careful on Facebook, I’ll be next. I know she is right.”

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Also published on Medium.